A New and Living Way, Part 3


I. God has prescribed for us a New Way of Living. (10:22-25)
For those who are a members of God’s family through faith in Jesus Christ, God has given us instructions for how we are to behave as his children, both in relation to Him as our Father and to one another in the church as brothers and sisters.

A. We must approach God sincerely. As I have said before, part of being a child of God is the ability to approach Him as a child would approach her father. But a child who loves her father would never go to her father with a sense of disrespect or with a demanding attitude. That same child, confident in the love of her father, is not going to approach him cautiously or fearfully. A child of God must go to Him with the same confidence, trust, and respect. When people in Scripture were in the presence of God, they had two responses: they recognized the sinfulness of their lives and they fell down and worshiped God. When Moses encountered God in the burning bush in Exodus 3, God demanded that he remove his sandals as a sign of respect for being on holy ground. In Isaiah 6:5, when Isaiah saw the throne room of God in a vision, he declared himself to be a man of unclean lips. In Revelation 1:17, the Apostle John saw Jesus in a vision on the island of Patmos and fell down as a dead man.

When we approach God, we must do so with a clean heart, in an attitude of respect and worship. The word here that we translate as “sincere” literally means “without superficiality, hypocrisy, or ulterior motive.” God told the Israelites in Deuteronomy 4:29, “You will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.” We are to come before God not wearing a mask of perfection or false holiness, but we are to approach Him in prayer and worship, honestly showing ourselves to Him while having a full assurance that He will help us with our sins and weaknesses. One commentator stated, “The people who find God are those who seek Him with their whole heart, with total genuineness.”

The idea of “full assurance” means that when we rely on God, we do so without doubt in our position as His children or His love as our Father. In 4:14-16 of Hebrews, the author has already explained to his readers:
Since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Jesus, our high priest, provided a way for us to confidently approach God with a pure, forgiven heart, and we are to approach Him this way each time we come to Him!

B. We must confess our hope unwaveringly. The writer begins this section on instructions concerning behavior with a point on how we are to approach God. This is very important to understand, because if our relationship with the Father is not correct, our relationships with one another will almost certainly be wrong as well. These instructions are given in a progressive order, and we see here that once we are confident in our position in Christ, we can then confess our hope with the same confidence. At the end of this verse, we are given an amazing statement concerning our Father: “He who promised is faithful.” God our Father has never failed in His promises, and unlike fallen, sinful man, He is always faithful to do what He says He will do. This fact is one in which we can place our confidence.

The Christians who received this letter had begun to lose their confidence in this new covenant, and it is believed that some of them were considering a return to the Jewish temple practices. Hard times had come and they had begun to waver in their faith in Christ. Just like those Christians had seen God keep His promises countless times, the Bible is full of examples of God’s faithfulness, and we can trust that God is faithful today just as He was then, because our God never changes.

Part of being a child of God is that, as we learn more and more about God, we are changed from the inside out and become more like Him. In 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, we are promised this will happen: “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”

We have hope that God is faithful, but what are we to confess? Our confession of hope is the salvation found in Christ. When we are confident in our salvation, we will share that hope with everyone we know.

C. We must encourage one another consistently. Part of becoming a child of God is learning to interact with other members of His family. Just as parents expect their children to treat one another lovingly, so God also expects us as His children to treat one another lovingly. In verse 24, we are told to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. The word “consider” means that we are to do more than think about it occasionally. It’s easy to think about other believers on Sunday morning when we are together at church. But here, we are told that we are to take care of each other’s spiritual welfare; we should show continuous concern for how our brothers and sisters are growing in their walks with the Lord.

This is the standard God has set for how we are to treat one another, but too often we fall short of this standard. In Matthew 7, Jesus gives us one example of how we fail at this instruction to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. Here he says, “”Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” The word translated here as “look” is the same Greek word that is translated as “consider” in Hebrews 10. With these two passages, we are given instructions in how we should and how we should not think of our spiritual siblings.

The word “stimulate” or “stir up” means we are to sharpen one another. With the combination of these two words, the writer of Hebrews is encouraging us to focus our attention consistently on finding ways to bring the love of Christ out of our fellow believers in real and practical ways.

In verse 25, we are told the reason for the urgency in the instructions of verse 24; many had begun to get frustrated and had grown disillusioned with the church and had even abandoned the fellowship of believers. It is nearly impossible to have any type of relationship with someone you never see. These practical instructions are meant to remind the readers that they will not be able to build up one another with encouragement if they are not gathering together. There is strength in numbers, and the discouraged sister is quickly encouraged when she comes together with other believers for a time of worship, prayer, and encouragement.

An early Christian writer named Ignatius once wisely observed, “When you frequently, and in numbers meet together, the powers of Satan are overthrown, and his mischief is neutralized by your likemindedness in the faith.” By gathering together, more mature believers are able to teach and encourage younger believers, and those younger believers in turn remind the older believers to keep their excitement for the Lord fresh and new as they walk with Him. Abandonment and isolation lead only to defeat, so the writer encourages his readers to remain together because the longer they stay together in a mutual state of love and encouragement, the closer they all come to the day when they will see Christ face to face.

My sister Brittany learned quickly her being a part of our family came with certain responsibilities. My parents raised us to believe that carrying the Mason name required certain things of us. We were told that Masons worked hard whether our boss was looking or not. We were told that Masons worked hard in school and that they went to college. We were told that Masons kept their promises and were true to their word. We were told to remember that when we went out into the world and began making choices on our own that we needed to remember that we not only represented ourselves as individuals, but we represented our family. My parents did a good job of teaching us those things because they spent time with us and taught us those things and then quickly corrected us when we were not living in a way that was consistent with who we were as members of the Mason family.

Just like being a Mason comes with certain responsibilities, being a child of God comes with certain responsibilities to God and to each other. This week, find ways that you can live out your confidence in your position as a child of God. Do you confess your hope in Christ without wavering? If not, find an opportunity this week to share your faith with someone. Take a moment and take inventory of how you consider your friends and family. Do you spend your time judging them and their sin, or do you spend more time considering how you can encourage them in their walks with Christ? If you realize you spend more time thinking about their sin than about how you can help them out of your sin, then make a point of changing that this week.

Window Shutters and Keeping up Appearances


I was sitting in my car yesterday with one of the girls from my Sunday school class. We had gone to lunch and were now waiting for her mom to get home because she had forgotten her key and couldn’t get in the house. As we were waiting, she started telling me about her neighbors. She pointed at one house and said they didn’t take very good care of their house and the shutters kept falling off. I looked at the house and, sure enough, two shutters were missing on the second floor. I wondered aloud why we even bother putting shutters on houses since we don’t actually shutter our windows anymore.

Hannah replied, “Because we all think they’re supposed to be there and it just looks wrong without them. We all know they don’t really do anything, but they used to, so we keep them. Houses without shutters just look funny.”

So we put shutters on our houses to keep up appearances. While they originally were designed to protect a home from the elements and storms, they now serve no functional purpose. This brief exchange got me thinking about how I keep up appearances in my own life. I am definitely guilty of seasons in my life when I have done the right things only because my life would look funny without them. I didn’t go to church because it was my lifeline of worship and community and spiritual growth. I went because I didn’t know what else you did on Sunday morning. And besides, if I wasn’t there, people would talk, and that would just be awkward. Just like shutters were originally meant to protect a home from the damaging elements of the weather, the disciplines of the Christian life are meant to protect us from the damaging elements of this world. We are to read Scripture because the Word brings life, not so we can check it off our “Good Christian To-Do List.” We are to go to church to participate in corporate worship and to build up and be built up by our brothers and sisters in Christ, not so that we can be seen and keep up the appearance that everything in our lives are A-Ok.

I began wondering, what disciplines have become shutters in my life? When do I go through the motions to keep up appearances? Is my Christian walk really useful and protective, or is it just decoration that will prove worthless when the times of testing arrive?

Picture two houses with shutters: one with genuine, useful shutters that will close to protect the windows in a storm, and the other with decorative shutters nailed to the house. On a cloudless, sunny day, they are identical. But put those houses through a violent storm, and they will look quite different.

Jesus gave a similar illustration in Matthew 7 about foundations. He said that those who keep up appearances, those who hear His words but don’t obey them, are like the man who builds his house on the sand. His home may look just like a house built on a rock, but when the storm comes, the house built on sand collapses.

So how would you describe your walk with Christ? Is it genuine and functional, fulfilling its purpose to make you both winsome in your walk and safe in the storm? Or is it merely window dressing you use to keep up appearances but will tragically serve no purpose when the winds of life blow around you?